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Black Zombie is a feature doc about the most popular, yet misunderstood monster of our time. Tracing the origins of the zombie from Haitian folklore to Hollywood horror, the film investigates common misrepresentations of this figure to reveal its connection to slavery and movements of resistance.
Black Zombie is a feature documentary about slavery, resistance and the living dead. It is also a film about the long term consequences of cultural appropriation. The film will trace the evolution of the zombie from its origins in Haiti, to its dominance in Hollywood, ultimately revealing its little known connection to slavery and movements of resistance.
Unbeknownst to most, the zombie is actually a Haitian Vodou metaphor for slavery. In 17th century Haiti, known then as the French colony of Saint-Domingue, enslaved Africans believed that death allowed them the freedom to return home to West Africa where they would live a peaceful afterlife. However, this passage could be stopped, if an evil landowner turned them into a zombie, forcing them to work the plantations for all eternity. As a result, the zombie represented a loss of agency not only in the present, but also in the hereafter.
Black Zombie will explore how European colonialism and American imperialism tried to bury the true meaning of the zombie and its connection to Haitian Vodou. These historical events have distorted and disparaged important and transformative elements of Black culture and history, and over time, turned an empathetic victim into the flesh eating monster we know today. Through an exploration of why the zombie has become a popular character for our time, we will see how despite the exploits of a multi-billion dollar horror industry, today's flesh-eating zombie still holds underlying truths to the original Vodou mythology.
Similar to the horror genre documentary 78/52, the film will use interviews with cultural experts, including filmmakers, Hollywood zombie fans, vodou practitioners and academics in Black History and Caribbean anthropology to explore the impact of the zombie narrative on present day society. Confirmed subjects include Harvard ethnobotanist, Wade Davis who wrote the famous Haitian zombie book Serpent and the Rainbow as well as esteemed Haitian Vodou Priestess, Manbo Maude Marie.
Structurally, the film will incorporate a narrator and animation as devices that will bring key historical events to life that have impacted the zombie narrative. Ultimately, the film will expose the dangers of cultural oppression and restore the zombie to its true identity, where it can serve as a cautionary tale and an inspiration for ongoing resistance.